UniSa Yarning Circle opens

UNCLE ARCHIE ROACH: Moandik, Meintangk and Narrangga Elder Aunty Penny Bonney plays a song by the late Uncle Archie Roach at the opening.

Charlotte Varcoe

MOUNT Gambier/Berrin’s UniSA campus is the first to officially open a Yarning Circle/Nyina Ba Kalawa in the state.

On Friday, more than 50 people gathered at the local campus for the official opening where Moandik, Meintangk and Narrangga Elder Aunty Penny Bonney performed not only a Welcome to Country, but also a song by the late Uncle Archie Roach.

A smoking ceremony was also performed by First Nations Elder Uncle Doug Nicholls.

The Yarning Circle/Nyina Ba Kalawa is based at the end of the Yacca Path/Kinyera Wari and provides a culturally safe and sound area for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike to take a breath and relax.

UniSA manager of Wirringka student services Leata Clarke said after a number of years of planning and preparation it was fabulous to open the Yarning Circle/Nyina Ba Kalawa to the wider community.

Ms Clarke said now the Mount Gambier/Berrin campus had opened the circle, it provided opportunities and interest from other campuses across South Australia.

“It is great to have the first Yarning Circle/Nyina Ba Kalawa here and to have it in a regional area gives more pride to the local students and staff and it gives them something the metropolitan campuses don’t have,” Ms Clarke said.

“I would like to think this encourages more students to come through the university and educate themselves to become the next doctors, lawyers and hopefully one day Prime Minister because we have to aim high and have high expectations and hope we can succeed.

“Having areas like this gives a more culturally comforting area for Indigenous students and UniSA has always had good intent and recognises inclusive activity of having Indigenous people involved by being the first university to have a Reconciliation Plan.”

She said the circle was an example of that connection and support with Indigenous students with the university’s executive team in full support of the project since its conception.

UniSA regional manager Ian McKay said currently the Mount Gambier/Berrin campus had about 28 Indigenous students enrolled for a range of different degrees with the Yarning Circle/Nyina Ba Kalawa bringing them together.

“It is wonderful we now have the Yarning Circle/Nyina Ba Kalawa on our campus because it provides a tangible connection between our Indigenous and non-Indigenous students but also with the community,” Mr McKay said.

“We hope other community groups will utilise the space as well with booking available through the university.”

He said despite the circle taking a bit of time to come to fruition, it was a good process with the university’s management team working closely with local elders and the architects.

Aunty Penny also congratulated the Mount Gambier/Berrin campus on its achievement saying she was glad students could feel safe sitting around the circle adn know this was where they belonged.

“It is good that yarning circles are becoming more common and I am so happy it has come to fruition for the students who are here now and will be here in the future,” Aunty Penny said.

“This is about acknowledging and recognising our people.”